And back from four days of a superb convention, in which I also got a load of editing done, so win-win all round there.

“Innominate” was, as I understand it, a late submission brought into being Easter 2016 when the incumbent 2017 convention ran into terminal difficulties. It was also returning to a town which, apparently, hadn’t gone down well the last time Eastercon went there – on the basis that the 2016 announcement was basically followed in the same breath with “butitwon’tbelikelasttime.” Which issues, I understand, revolved around the then-hotel.

The hotel, then (this time, not sure about last time) was the Hilton Birmingham Metropole. Con hotels vary a lot, and how welcoming the place is makes a huge difference to how pleasant the con experience is (see 2015 Nine Worlds at whichever godawful Heathrow hotel that was). Between them, the hotel staff and the convention organisers absolutely pulled out all the stops, insofar as my experience went. The staff were friendly and accomodating, the rooms were good, the breakfast was the finest at any con hotel I’ve tried and they had a pool and a spa. The hotel prices were on the high side, but there was affordable food in the fan lounge. It wasn’t overcrowded (last year’s EC at Manchester had a good hotel that just wasn’t big enough for the level of attendance) and everything seemed to tick along like clockwork.

The programme itself was extremely good. My own bits went well – the Kaffeeklatsch I did with Ed McDonald (Whose Blackwing is out in July from Gollancz) was very well attended, and I feel I acquitted myself quite admirably in the Ready Steady Flash fiction challenge, writing 4 tiny stories in 5 minutes each alongside Ian Whates, Pad Cadigan and Aliette de Bodard, to the whipcracking of Lee Harris. Beyond these, though. I got to sit in on some absolutely fascinating panel discussions including an incisive discussion of near-future AI with four actual professional experts in the field ably chaired by Penny Reeve of Angry Robot, and another chaired by Peter Harrow with artists discussing the uncanny valley, featuring Judith Clute, Fangorn, Smuzz and Robin Stevenson.

Overall, I think this was one of the most pleasant, most relaxed cons I’ve been to in a while (aside from the shaky sweat I was in before the flash fiction shenanigans). Next year’s is in Harrogate, for those interested in going.

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